A U.S. anti-terrorism law requiring all shipping containers to be scanned before embarkation “will further slow down international trade dynamics and, consequently, world growth,” according to the World Customs Organization.
Since the September 11 attacks on the U.S., security experts have warned that the boxes could be used by terrorists to send bombs or suicide bombers overseas.
However, in a report by the University of Le Havre, trading partners, bridling at U.S. insistence that containers be scanned in their port of origin, could impose reciprocal measures.
Frederic Carluer, professor of territorial management at Le Havre, says the measure passed by Congress last year, and set to become law in 2012, “may be perceived as a disguised protectionist measure which would transfer the risk of ‘security’ to its partners.”
Asia, which accounts for 75 percent of U.S. imports, would be hit hardest by the measures. In addition, the European Commission said Monday that scanning all containers will be “costly, inefficient towards improving security, and may disrupt cargo traffic.” Implementation of the legislative plan would effect more than 600 ports globally.
While scanning technology is expected to be up to the challenge by 2012, and some of the larger and more advanced ports could be ready for implementation, there are many unknown factors that may hinder the application or effectiveness of this legislation, the study shows.
The cost of infrastructure and equipment, port risk management, hiring and training staff, the ability to monitor, interpret and asses every image in a timely manner, are but a few of the areas identified by the study as problematic.
Due to these complex factors the effectiveness of applying a blanket approach to ensure the security of shipments is questionable, the study shows.
The WCO is releasing the study publicly to allow its results to be debated by customs representatives, port operators, manufacturers of scanning technology, and service providers in the hopes of exploring various options that will enable the WCO to offer the U.S. positive counter-proposals to the legislative plan.
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